I've an old laptop sitting around and I'm moving abroad. My grandma is kinda sad about that so I was thinking of installing some Linux distro on the old laptop and tailor it to her needs.

What would you suggest as the desktop environment? It has to be configurable to the needs of an old person (e.g. easy to see visual elements) and easy for me to lock so she doesn't accidentally switch off something or remove something that she later can't find.

Any suggestions are welcome.

  • 2
    For me personally, I prefer Linux Mint, as it is user friendly in a GUI kind of way.
    – Kevdog777
    Jul 18, 2012 at 15:54
  • 1
    I'm going to agree with Kevdog777 on this. MATE, Cinnamon or even XFCE are pretty simple interfaces.
    – MRR0GERS
    Jul 18, 2012 at 16:01
  • 1
    I would suggest ubuntu.
    – KoU_warch
    Jul 18, 2012 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


I'd also recommend Ubuntu (take the tour or let she take it) with unity:

  • makes it easy to access programm without knowing their exact names or places
  • by using the current LTS version you could stay on an updated system for 5 years (however you'll need the root password for updating....huh.)

But for this environment you can't use every hardware. You may test it first via a live-cd.

  • I haven't used Ubuntu for a couple of years now. Is there a version of Unity that doesn't require video hw acceleration?
    – zbrox
    Jul 20, 2012 at 8:46
  • Yep, you can use Unity 2D by choosing it at the loginscreen (last chosen session becomes default session).
    – 32bitfloat
    Jul 20, 2012 at 10:00
  • "however you'll need the root password for updating" You can modify sudoers so she doesn't, unless not giving her full admin permissions was a goal.
    – Luc
    Dec 1, 2017 at 22:46

I have tried Mint and Ubuntu and the new Ubuntu is what I would suggest. I say this because of the way the GUI is set up. Large easy to read icons, some that are obvious as to what they do.

  • I haven't used Ubuntu recently. Is Unity's default to launch the programs in full screen mode? Or can it be set to do so. That would be helpful.
    – zbrox
    Jul 20, 2012 at 8:47

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